The Week In Review: Manufacturing

IBMers go to GF; Applied’s tool outlook; Advantest’s rating; who is Xcerra?

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About 150 to 200 employees from IBM’s chip unit will be dispatched to work at GlobalFoundriesaccording to the Poughkeepsie Journal. GlobalFoundries said the arrangement is temporary, according to the report. GlobalFoundries is the leading candidate to buy IBM’s chip unit, which is apparently on the block. To date, however, GlobalFoundries and IBM have yet to make any announcements on the rumored sale. Commenting on the IBMers that will work at GlobalFoundries, a GlobalFoundries spokesman released this statement to Semiconductor Engineering: “In addition to our recruiting efforts for direct employees, we have entered into a contractor services agreement with IBM to bring experienced industry talent to Fab 8 to support the aggressive ramp and expansion through the end of this year. This is a discrete contract to provide technical expertise in support of Fab 8 during a critical ramp phase from May 2014 through the end of December 2014. The agreement enables approximately 200 experienced engineers and managers to support the current Fab 8 ramp. The agreement is not connected with any other existing agreements between GlobalFoundries and IBM.”

One group estimates that IBM’s chip unit employs about 4,000 people in Vermont alone. If that unit is shuttered amid a possible sale, Vermont’s economy could go into a tailspin, according to WCAX.com

Last week, Applied Materials posted its results for the quarter. In a conference call, Gary Dickerson, president and chief executive of Applied Materials, painted a mixed picture about the fab tool market. “Adoption of 3D NAND is progressing at a slower pace than previously anticipated, but we still see increasing investment as customers work to solve technical challenges in a transition from planer to 3D devices. DRAM customers are also investing more as they upgrade capacities at their advanced nodes to meet demand for mobile DRAM. We expect 2014 DRAM spending to be 10% to 15% higher than last year. Overall, while there have been some adjustments in customers investment plans in recent months, we maintain our view that 2014 wafer fab equipment could be up 10% to 20% relative to last year,” he said on the Seeking Alpha Web site.

Intel, Samsung, TSMC and others appear more supportive of Lam Research as Applied Materials grows larger. “We believe Lam is benefiting immediately and to a larger degree than we originally expected from increased customer engagements as a direct response to the Applied Materials-Tokyo Electron merger. While share gains are not a given, we think deeper customer engagements will provide Lam with more access to wafers and data, better positioning the company in upcoming selections. We also think jump-ball decisions are more likely to go in Lam’s direction,” according to Weston Twigg, an analyst with Pacific Crest Securities, in a research note.

According to VLSI Research, Advantest ranks high among the best suppliers of test equipment in 2014, and also as a top 10 best large supplier of chip making equipment, attaining scores that surpassed even its personal-best scores of prior years.

Xcerra, formerly known as LTX-Credence, announced financial results for its third fiscal quarter ended April 30.

Worldwide silicon wafer area shipments increased during the first quarter 2014, compared to fourth quarter 2013 area shipments according to the SEMI Silicon Manufacturers Group (SMG).

North America-based manufacturers of semiconductor equipment posted a book-to-bill ratio of 1.03 in April, compared to 1.06 in March, according to SEMI. A book-to-bill of 1.03 means that $103 worth of orders were received for every $100 of product billed for the month.

Microchip Technology has signed a definitive agreement to acquire ISSC, a provider of low power Bluetooth and advanced wireless solutions.

Nikon has announced new executives and has restructured its operations. As part of the moves, the Precision Equipment Company will be divided into the Semiconductor Lithography Business Unit and the FPD Lithography Business Unit.

MagnaChip Semiconductor announced that Sang Park has retired as chairman, chief executive and director. The board has appointed Young-Joon Kim, MagnaChip’s executive vice president and general manager of the Display Solutions Division, to serve as interim CEO.

Companies selling optoelectronics continue to dominate the top 30 sales ranking of suppliers serving semiconductor markets outside of traditional integrated circuit products, according to IC Insights.

Carmakers and technology developers building self-driving cars will create an $87 billion opportunity in 2030, with software emerging as the biggest winner, even though a fully autonomous driverless car will remain elusive, according to Lux Research.